Updated for 2016!
When you write about Disney topics, people tend to ask you questions. Probably the one question I get asked the most is, “We only have tickets for one day. What park should we go to?” I always say the Magic Kingdom. Regardless of age or how much you love roller coasters, I always say the Magic Kingdom just for the experience. When people think of Disney World, what pops into their heads first is usually Cinderella Castle; adult visitors have said they cried the first time they saw it because they had waited for so long. So if you can only be in Orlando for one day, I say spend it there.
I’ll go one further. If you are traveling with children under the age of three or four, I’m not sure I would take them to any Disney park besides the Magic Kingdom, even if you have enough tickets for two days. You will be hard pressed to see everything in one day, and with the number of rides offered at the Magic Kingdom, smaller children might want to ride the same things more than once. We didn’t even tell our kids that Disney World offered more theme parks besides M.K. until they were older and liked animals (Animal Kingdom) could do some reading on their own (Epcot) and were taller (Hollywood Studios).
The Magic Kingdom Only plan isn’t for everyone, but it works well for many people with small children or visitors on their first trip.
The next most popular question I get asked is, “Is there anything special we should ride at the Magic Kingdom?” My answer sometimes strays off the usual Disney roller coaster path.
I abhor standing in long lines. I think it’s like a flashback of my trips to Orlando in the 70s. I never quite got over standing in lines in the middle of the brutal summer heat for an hour or more to ride a three-minute ride. It just seemed a massive waste of time. My thrill seeking brothers would disagree, I am sure, but these were the same guys that spent their whole allowance playing Pac-Man.
If you have teens who have never been to Disney or have not been since they were small, of course I would say to hit the Mountain Range: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain.
And if you can get a FASTPASS for any of the Mountains, that’s the time to ride. But if you don’t have a FASTPASS for those really popular Mountain rides and favorites like Peter Pan, I’m the first one to say you should really concentrate on those “other” rides…the less popular rides at the Magic Kingdom.
Let’s take a look at ride wait times for a Saturday in early June. I made a list of these times at one p.m. from the My Disney Experience App. This is just a snippet of one average summer day. Of course these times can vary greatly with weather, holidays, and special events like Extra Magic Hours for that particular park.
Rides with the longest wait times:
Astro Orbiter – 30 minutes
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – 35 minutes
Haunted Mansion – 30 minutes
Tomorowland Speedway – 30 minutes
Now for the rides with a wait longer than half an hour (on that particular day).
Rides with even longer wait times:
Enchanted Tales with Belle – 40 minutes
Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid – 40 minutes
Big Thunder Mountain – 45 minutes
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – 45 minutes
Peter Pan’s Flight – 50 minutes
Space Mountain – 70 minutes
Splash Mountain – 80 minutes
You’ll notice the three Mountains are on this list, as they always have the longest wait times, and these wait times for that particular day are actually low for many rides. The Mountain roller coasters can all reach upwards of 120 minutes easily in the summer. I’ve seen 160 minutes posted before, and that translates into you standing in line as a standby rider for 2.5 hours of your day.
Is that really the best use of your vacation time? This Cheapskate Princess thinks not.
Ok, so roller coasters are popular, as they have been since their invention. But if you don’t want to spend all day standing in long line after up-to-120 minute plus lines, then here are rides you want to become very familiar with. These are the one p.m. wait times for this one particular day from the My Disney Experience App. for what people would probably refer to as the “less popular rides.” This is what I call them:
Cheapskate Short Wait Rides
That’s a catchy title isn’t it…Cheapskate Short Wait.
Country Bear Jamboree – 0 minutes
Liberty Square Riverboat – 0 minutes
Prince Charming Regal Carousel – 0 minutes
Swiss Family Treehouse – 0 minutes
Hall of Presidents – 0 minutes
Tom Sawyer Island – 0 minutes
Tomorrowland Transit Authority – 0 minutes
Walt Disney World Railroad – 0 minutes
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – 0 minutes
Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress – 5 minutes
Mad Tea Party – 5 minutes
Uh oh, we’re up to the 10 minute wait times…
Dumbo the Flying Elephant – 10 minutes
Magic Carpets of Aladdin – 10 minutes
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor – 10 minutes
Pirates of the Caribbean – 10 minutes
Stitch’s Great Escape – 10 minutes
The Barnstormer – 10 minutes
Mickey’s PhilharMagic – 10 minutes
Small World – 15 minutes
Jungle Cruise – 15 minutes
Again, some of these rides will have longer lines depending on crowd and weather factors. But in general across the board, riding the “Cheapskate Short Wait” rides will give you more for your money, spending less time waiting in line and more time doing something.
How will riding these rides save you money?
Ok, they won’t directly, but I can tie it back into that.
What these rides will allow you to do is spend less time waiting in line. Less time standing in line = more time actually riding/seeing something. Even with new and improved ride ques like at the Haunted Mansion, standing in line is not a lot of fun, riding rides/seeing shows is. And with younger children who will have a tough time standing or walking very slowly for hours, short waits will save your patience, and your feet won’t ache as much. I really believe standing for long periods of time hurts my body more than walking.
When people say they hated Disney World and would never go back, it always seems to be directly related to the time of year they visited and how long they stood in line. This is a McDonald’s fast food world – most of us hate waiting for anything. Riding more rides/seeing more shows on vacation will make you feel like you got the best use out of your tickets, and if you feel your vacation was worth the money, you might purchase more than one or two-day tickets for your next trip. Tickets for more days translates into less you pay per day for each ticket, and that’s where your savings come in.
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you and with the kids, deciding what rides to ride…
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Amanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.
Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast.
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